In a digital world where almost everyone over the age of 12 has a camera in their back pocket, it’s increasingly vital for retailers to provide lessons on how to enjoy everything photography can provide. Horn Photo got on that bandwagon early. Today, Horn Photo relays that message via the Clicking Caravan.
Stan Grosz, Horn Photo’s co-owner, explains their efforts. “The Horn Photo team worked hard to put on multiple small ‘schools’ with specialized topics for small groups. Customers were grateful, but they weren’t spending enough to justify the costs of the training we offered. The attendees were largely the same people. We weren’t growing our customer base.” As a result, the store cancelled their wide variety of schools. They did continue their manufacturer classes, along with offering lessons in basic-through-advanced picture taking. Meanwhile, Stan asked his team, “What’s next?”
Horn Photo had held one “Drink and Click” event at a local watering hole. It was a rousing success, in good part because the team had listened to the advice of other dealers and put in all the advance work required to make it successful. The Drink and Click took a lot of effort, and it had some desired results. The next question was, “How can we improve on our partial triumph?”
Aaron Rogers, the assistant camera department manager, told us how his eyes were opened at a PRO show. “Customers of all ages want to be part of the educational process. They don’t want to be sold product or sit and be lectured. They want to learn through a self-discovery experience.”
Clicking Caravan Is Born
The result of the team’s brainstorming is Clicking Caravan; it’s free to everyone who wants to take pictures while learning how to improve their skills and having fun at locales. Venues have included a Jaguar dealership, Gazebo Gardens, historic areas, public areas as well as wineries. They hire multiple live models brought in to pose in various settings. There have to be varied areas at a Clicking Caravan event for creative self-discovery among the unique picture-taking opportunities.
Clicking Caravan: The Rules
Shelly Grosz named it. Stan and the team came up with the concept and developed these rules.
It must be simple. Easy to plan and run. No complexities.
It must be open to everyone with any brand camera, including cell phones. Just sign up—or drop in—and celebrate the joys of photography. Ryan Watamura, camera department manager, wanted a departure from the Drink and Click model; especially where only one brand of camera is featured, making other camera users feel unwelcome. Ryan stresses, “Clicking Caravan is for everyone who celebrates picture taking, no matter which camera they’re using.”
It must be Horn Photo, not vendor, directed. The focus is on the fun of photography. Horn will build community among people with a common interest. Only vendors willing to add to that experience are invited to participate.
Admission is free at these customer events, which cost Horn Photo under $1,000 each. This covers all out-of-pocket expenses; so, the six yearly events aren’t a huge drain on marketing funds. Occasional vendor support is welcomed when it supports the overall goals or adds something special to the event.
Existing events are leveraged whenever possible. This allows Horn customers to intermingle with the general public, demonstrating how much fun you can have with photography—especially as a Horn Photo customer. Events should be held in places where people will find interesting photographic possibilities and activity. (One was at a farmers market. The Clicking Caravan event was timed so when it ended, local dancers performed. They were followed by fire dancers at night. Horn Photo’s 90-minute event opened the gate to five hours of picture-taking opportunities for the attendees.)
Horn Photo won’t normally provide food or drink. So, venues with food trucks or other concessionaires already “on set” are great. Gazebo Gardens is a traditional garden center that has a micro-brewery beer garden. Places like the farmers market are ideal because food vendors traditionally surround the venue.
Horn Photo will provide models and lighting gear, but customers may also bring their own models. These are often relatives who attend to have portraits done in unique settings by the “family photographer.” Jan Flanigan, a customer who actively participated in Horn Photo events, became the store’s education and event manager. Today she hires the models, coordinates with the venues and deals with whatever administrative issues there are.
Horn Photo isn’t responsible for follow-up administration. It’s up to individual participants to share on social media. Models often ask the photographers for copies of the photos for their portfolios. Based on Rule #1, Horn Photo will not coordinate this interaction. It’s up to the models to communicate with the photographers and the photographers to communicate with the models. Over time, this has proven to build community because it requires people to communicate directly with each other.
Clicking Caravan events are officially only 90-minutes. Drop-ins are allowed, but those who preregister are entered into the raffle that officially ends each event. The winner must be present at the drawing. Prizes are either vendor donations or whichever ProMaster product needs more exposure to Horn Photo customers.
A Separate Brand
Clicking Caravan has become its own brand with its own logo, social media, website and identity as part of Horn Photo. To best understand Clicking Caravan, check out the website at ClickingCaravan.com or watch YouTube videos such as youtube.com/watch?v=oAroZ9j5XiY.
Stan emphasizes, “Clicking Caravan provides a reason for customers to get out and take pictures. It’s a way for customers to meet others and grow the community’s passion for picture taking. Satisfying sales have followed. This is what our advanced classes will be for the short-term future.”
How long will it last? Who knows? Horn Photo’s motto is to keep doing new things, recognizing everything has an end date. So far, it seems sure Clicking Caravan will have a long and successful life.” And knowing the Horn Photo team, the new question isn’t
“What’s next?” but “What else?”